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‘Maryland, My Maryland’ faces a demotion


A military band plays at Gov. Larry Hogan’s inauguration. ‘Maryland, My Maryland’ is a standard at such events. (File Photo/Maximilian Franz)

ANNAPOLIS — Maryland’s state’s song could get a demotion of sorts under a bill preliminarily approved by the state Senate.

“Maryland, My Maryland,” the official state song, could find itself relegated to a footnote in state history and re-designated as the historical state song under legislation tentatively approved by the Senate Wednesday. It’s a change some lawmakers say is too long in coming as officials here and around the country seek to deal with remnants of the country’s ties to slavery and the Civil War while other legislators say the changes amount to erasing history.

“Others of us would see it as divisive, dated and racist,” said Sen. Cheryl C. Kagan, D-Montgomery and lead sponsor of the bill. “It’s time to move forward on this. It’s time to enact a compromise.”

Kagan’s original bill called for repealing the state song status for “Maryland, My Maryland.” In its place, the bill called for the creation of a state commission that would begin a search for a new state song.

“I know there are a lot of people who don’t like the word compromise,” said Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr. “What this does is it doesn’t abolish the song. It says it’s the historical song. If anyone wants to come up with another song, let’s come up with another song.”

The compromise referenced by Miller eliminates the search commission from Kagan’s proposal. Additionally, it effectively demotes “Maryland, My Maryland” from official state song status and instead designates the Civil War-era piece to new “historic state song” designation.

“It’s kind of like a participation trophy bill,” said Sen. J.B. Jennings, R-Baltimore and Harford counties and minority leader.

“It’s a do-nothing bill. It changes it to historical,” said Jennings. “I don’t know why we’re dealing with it. Where does it stop? We’ll have to deal with the state flag because of the cross. We have a picture back here, that governor served in the Confederate Army. So maybe he’s going to have to come down one day. Where does it end?”

The song began as a poem written by James Ryder Randall, a Baltimore native working as an English and classics professor at Poydras College in Louisiana in 1861 to protest Union troops marching through Baltimore.

Randall’s prose calls for Maryland to “spurn the Northern Scum.” The song was adopted by Southern troops as a battle hymn during the Civil War.

It became the official state song in 1939.

This is not the first time such legislation has been proposed. In 2015, a State Song Advisory Group recommended six possible replacements for “Maryland, My Maryland.”

The latest effort to remove the official state song status from “Maryland, My Maryland” follows abrupt decisions last summer to remove Confederate statues in Baltimore and the removal of the Roger Brooke Taney statue that sat on the front lawn of the State House.

Other Republicans rushed to defend the song.

Sen. Robert “Bob” Cassilly, R-Harford, said the effort was “reminiscent of a book burning.”

“We’re getting to the point where we’re saying history is racist,” said Sen. Justin D. Ready, R-Carroll.

Some Democrats in the Senate chamber could be heard responding to Ready, saying, “It is.”

“I think we need to be careful about that,” Ready said.

Kagan’s bill could come up as early as Friday for a final vote before being sent to the House of Delegates.













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